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The car driven by Tom Butterworth stopped at a town, and Tom got out to fill his
pockets with cigars and incidentally to enjoy the wonder and admiration of the
citizens. He was in an exalted mood and words flowed from him. As the motor
under its hood purred, so the brain under the graying old head purred and threw
forth words. He talked to the idlers before the drug stores in the towns and, when
the car started again and they were out in the open country, his voice, pitched in
a high key to make itself heard above the purring engine, became shrill. Having
struck the shrill tone of the new age the voice went on and on.
But the voice and the swift-moving car did not stir Clara. She tried not to hear the
voice, and fixing her eyes on the soft landscape flowing past under the moon,
tried to think of other times and places. She thought of nights when she had
walked with Kate Chanceller through the streets of Columbus, and of the silent
ride she had taken with Hugh that night they were married. Her mind went back
into her childhood and she remembered the long days she had spent riding with
her father in this same valley, going from farm to farm to haggle and dicker for
the purchase of calves and pigs. Her father had not talked then but sometimes,
when they had driven far and were homeward bound in the failing light of
evening, words did come to him. She remembered one evening in the summer
after her mother died and when her father often took her with him on his drives.
They had stopped for the evening meal at the house of a farmer and when they
got on the road again, the moon came out. Something present in the spirit of the
night stirred Tom, and he spoke of his life as a boy in the new country and of his
fathers and brothers. "We worked hard, Clara," he said. "The whole country was
new and every acre we planted had to be cleared." The mind of the prosperous
farmer fell into a reminiscent mood and he spoke of little things concerning his
life as a boy and young man; the days of cutting wood alone in the silent, white
forest when winter came and it was time for getting out firewood and logs for new
farm buildings, the log rollings to which neighboring farmers came, when great
piles of logs were made and set afire that space might be cleared for planting. In
the winter the boy went to school in the village of Bidwell and as he was even
then an energetic, pushing youth, already intent on getting on in the world, he set
traps in the forest and on the banks of streams and walked the trap line on his
way to and from school. In the spring he sent his pelts to the growing town of
Cleveland where they were sold. He spoke of the money he got and of how he
had finally saved enough to buy a horse of his own.
Tom had talked of many other things on that night, of the spelling-downs at the
schoolhouse in town, of huskings and dances held in the barns and of the
evening when he went skating on the river and first met his wife. "We took to
each other at once," he said softly. "There was a fire built on the bank of the river
and after I had skated with her we went and sat down to warm ourselves.
"We wanted to get married to each other right away," he told Clara. "I walked
home with her after we got tired of skating, and after that I thought of nothing but
how to get my own farm and have a home of my own."